We can’t turn over the raft, because Methodists avoid immersion

I’m looking forward to a trip I’m taking with the First United Methodist Church – Shelbyville middle school youth next month to Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.

I’ve heard of Lake Junaluska for years and always wanted to visit; it’s one of the most famous Methodist retreat centers and headquarters of the World Methodist Council. It’s owned by the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.

This being a youth trip, we will get to enjoy some of the surrounding area in the mountains. This will include tubing and white-water rafting, neither of which I’ve ever done before, and a natural rock water slide. We’ll also have some programming with a special guest speaker.

There’s a museum at Lake Junaluska about the history of Methodism, but the musuem closes at 4 each day and, according to the agenda our youth director has sent out, our free time periods all seem to start around that time. So I may not make it to the museum. That’s sad, because — by sheer coincidence — I’m currently reading Wesley And The People Called Methodists, by Richard P. Heitzenrater, a history of the origins of Methodism which was recommended at the last lay servant class I took. But, hey, there’s always next time.

I had a great time as a chaperone with our youth (both middle and high school) at Warmth In Winter in January, and I expect to have a great time on this trip as well. We have a great group of kids at First UMC. This trip will be in partnership between First UMC and our youth director’s home church in Savannah, Ga., Isle Of Hope UMC. So we’ll meet new people as well. We’ll all be staying at the Lagoalinda Inn at Lake Junaluska.

summer of my game show youth

ABC is bringing back not one but two of my childhood favorite game shows this summer. Well, three, actually.

I grew up in the early 1970s heyday of daytime network game shows, before syndicated talk shows and expanded morning shows took over. I was, and am, a game show geek. Deal with it.

First up, on June 14, will be a revival of “To Tell The Truth” hosted by Anthony Anderson. This show has been on and off various times over the past five or six decades. The original was hosted by Bud Collyer, but the version I remember, from the late 60s and early 70s, was hosted by Garry Moore (and then, in its last season or two, by Joe Garagiola, due to Moore’s health problems). The movie “Catch Me If You Can” begins with an actual clip from the Garagiola era, only with the real Frank Abagnale digitally replaced by Leonardo DiCaprio.

The three regular panelists during this era were Bill Cullen, Peggy Cass and Kitty Carlisle, with the fourth seat on the panel filled by a different celebrity each week. Betty White, who will be a regular panelist on the new version, was sometimes a guest in that fourth seat. (She was connected to  the Goodson-Todman game show empire through her husband, the wonderful “Password” host Allen Ludden.)

The most recent version, in the 1990s, was hosted by John O’Hurley and had Paula Poundstone and the late Meshach Taylor as panelists.

If you’re too young to remember this show, the premise is based on a guest with an unusual occupation, experience or story. Let’s say that someone named John X. Kadiddlehopper was the first person to swim the length of the Mississippi River upstream. At the start of a game, three people would be brought out.

“Number one, what is your name?” the host (or, in some versions, the announcer) would ask.

“My name is John  X. Kadiddlehopper .”

“Number two, what is your name?”

“My name is John X. Kadiddlehopper .”

“And number three, what is your name?”

“My name is John X. Kadiddlehopper .”

“Well, panelists, all three of these men claim to be swimmer John X. Kadiddlehopper, but only one of them is sworn to tell the truth.” The host then reads a first-person affidavit, signed by John X. Kadiddlehopper, describing who he is and what he’s done. Each of the panelists then gets a period of time to ask questions of the three people on stage, in an attempt to figure out which one is actually John X. Kadiddlehopper.

The three players – the real John X. Kadiddlehopper, and the two impostors – are trying to fool the panel. The real John X. Kadiddlehopper is supposed to answer questions truthfully, but the impostors can say whatever they think will be believable.

Once all four panelists have had a chance to question the players, each of them casts a vote for who they think is the real John X. Kadiddlehopper. Then, the host asks, “Will the real John X. Kadiddlehopper please stand up?”, a phrase which started on “To Tell The Truth” and went on to enter the lexicon. The three players earn money for each wrong vote by the panel, usually with some sort of bonus if they manage to fool all four panelists. In some later versions, including the John O’Hurley version, the studio audience was also polled, and their collective response counted as a fifth vote.

I enjoyed O’Hurley, Poundstone and Taylor in the 90s – Taylor was a razor-sharp interrogator, almost too good. But the producers, in an attempt to compete with salacious daytime talk shows, seemed obsessed with booking players with sex-related stories – the sex coach to the stars, that sort of thing. They just went overboard.

The Anthony Anderson version sounds like its angle on freshening up the format is more comedy-related. Anderson’s mother Doris will serve as scorekeeper (why do you need a scorekeeper?) and get to ask a question during each game. The celebrity panelist with the worst record at the end of each show will have to tweet a lie about themselves. NeNe Leakes will be the other regular panelist besides Betty White.

I’m keeping an open mind.

Later in the month, on June 26, ABC will premiere a block of back-to-back summer game shows. There will be “Celebrity Family Feud,” hosted by Steve Harvey; “The $100,000 Pyramid,” hosted by Michael Strahan; and “Match Game,” hosted by Alec Baldwin.

“Pyramid” has been on TV several times lately, so even though it’s another of my childhood favorites it’s not as much of a novelty to have it back. Donny Osmond hosted a syndicated version from 2002 to 2004, while Game Show Network did its own version in 2012, just four years ago.

No, the big news here is “Match Game,” hosted by Alec Baldwin. Whether or not it’s successful will no doubt depend on the celebrity panelists, and I don’t think ABC has announced them yet. In fact, on the promo that ABC ran tonight, they had actual clips of “Feud” and “Pyramid,” while “Match Game” was represented by generic footage of Baldwin standing before a white background.

“Match Game” has become a part of popular culture, such that even young people are vaguely familiar with it, through reruns on GSN, parodies on “Saturday Night Live,” and so on. So I don’t really need a long and detailed explanation, but the basic idea is that the game is based on sentences like “Dumb Dora is so dumb, she thinks the Golden Globe Award is presented to the person with the best [BLANK].” The players try to match the answers written down by a panel of celebrities.

The secret of the iconic 1970s version of the show, of course, was the byplay among the celebrities – particularly the three regular panelists (out of 6): Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly and Richard Dawson. As with most game shows, a week’s worth of shows were shot in a day, and apparently alcohol was available with lunch, so fans of the show have noted that the celebrities are considerably less-inhibited for the Thursday and Friday shows for a given week than they were on Monday and Tuesday, if you catch my drift.

We’ll see what celebrities turn up on this new version, and whether or not there’s any chemistry.

By the way, there have been several attempts to revive “Match Game” over the years, and one of them is widely-acknowledged to be one of the worst game shows ever: “The Match Game / Hollywood Squares Hour,” an unfortunate and poorly-executed attempt to mash together two incompatible celebrity game-show formats. Gene Rayburn, who had hosted “Match Game” back in the 1970s, hosted the “Match Game” half of the program, with Jon “Bowser” Bauman of  Sha Na Na as one of the celebrities. Then, for the “Hollywood Squares” half of the show, they would switch places. Bauman hosted, awkwardly, and Rayburn served as one of the celebrity squares.

Think I’m making this turkey up? Think again:

it’s a small world, and the world’s a stage

Here’s one of the strangest coincidences I’ve been involved with in a while.

As you know, I’m in rehearsals for “The Foreigner,” which opens Friday at The Fly Arts Center in Shelbyville. For more information, go here.

“The Foreigner” is being directed by Tony Davis, who normally heads up the outstanding drama program, Smokestack Theatre, at Community High School. I occasionally talked to Tony in the past about getting one of Community’s plays into the newspaper, but I can’t say that I knew him, and I’d never worked with him on a play before.

I certainly didn’t know that he has an identical twin brother. At today’s rehearsal, the first time we’ve gone through the full play, start to finish, we had a special guest in the seats: Tony’s twin brother, whom he introduced as Jerry Davis.

Tony and his brother share a love of the theater. In fact, Jerome Davis is founding artistic director of Burning Coal Theater in Raleigh, North Carolina.

I, too, have a brother who shares my love of the theater. My brother Michael and his wife, Kelly, live in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Mike has appeared in plays at the Gilbert Theater and with Sweet Tea Shakespeare.

However, his most recent project was an hour’s drive away from Fayetteville … he was one of a number of actors, from a number of North Carolina theater groups, who participated in a Shakespeare festival organized by … wait for it … the Burning Coal Theater in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Isn’t that cool?

wanderlust

Without getting too much into personal matters, I’m looking forward over the next few months to completing some changes to my financial situation that I’ve been working on for several years, and – eventually – getting some reliable transportation. The first thing is only a couple of months away, but then it will take months of scrimping and saving before I can follow it with the second thing. It’s encouragingly close, but frustratingly far. I want it to be over right now.

Lately, I’ve been dreaming about a particular make and model of car. I printed a photo out on photo paper. I’ve been surfing the company’s website, and a nearby dealer’s website, and I was thrilled to see the car – in my preferred color! – drive through the McDonald’s parking lot the other day. I wanted to flag it down and ask the driver how she liked it.

This week, PBS has been re-running “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” Ken Burns’ outstanding documentary series. In some ways, I think it may be my favorite thing he’s done except for “The Civil War,” and in some cases “The National Parks” is even more relevant and has even more to say.

But what it’s instilled in me on my repeat viewing this week is a yearning to hit the road. Last night’s episode, especially, was about the dawn of the age when many people had cars and could drive themselves to one National Park – or even make a challenge of visiting multiple parks. When I have a car I can trust, I want to get in it and drive somewhere. Not necessarily a national park – although there are certainly some I’d like to see – but just somewhere.

a confession

Most of the cast of “The Foreigner” worked on the set today, but I begged off. I feel guilty about this. I think people probably assumed I had a specific conflict, but the fact of the matter was that I just have a crazy weekend, and sometimes I’m sort of self-conscious about being old and out of shape.

In my defense, I did work on my lines today. I have worked on my lines five different times today, spending 25 minutes or so each time. I would start by reading through — once — the parts of the play for which I’m already off-book, then I would read the parts I’m still trying to memorize three times. I’m still not quite comfortable with a couple of things from the part I’ll need to have memorized by Tuesday night. My earlier scenes were mostly dialogues between my character and one other character. This scene is a big group scene, where I’ll go for a page or two without any lines at all, and so I’ve got to make sure I’m listening for my cue lines. And I have one big emotional monologue just before leaving the stage, and it has three parts to it — one to Charlie, one to the group, and one to David. I like the monologue, because I think it shows a little of where my character’s negativity comes from, but I am still trying to nail memorizing it so that I can do justice to it when I speak it.

Another reason I wanted to protect today is that tomorrow is going to be a little crazy. I will start it teaching my normal Sunday School class and going to church. Then, I will go to my father’s house for lunch to celebrate my nephew James’s birthday. The rest of the family will then proceed to Cascade, where James’s brother T.J. is in a production of “Seussical Jr.,” but I won’t be joining them  — because I’ll be at rehearsal tomorrow afternoon. Then, after rehearsal, I’m up in the rotation this week to be one of the adults at youth at church tomorrow evening. This will be the busiest Sunday I’ve had in quite a while.

At the end of my power cord

For the most part, I’ve been quite happy with the Internet part of my Charter Communications bundle. The speed is much faster and the service is usually much more reliable than my old AT&T DSL, and I generally laugh when I get mailings from AT&T imploring me to come back and pay almost exactly what I’m paying Charter for 1/10 the speed.

Every utility service has occasional problems and outages, though, and the past couple of weeks my Charter Internet service would drop periodically. It got worse over the weekend, to where when the Internet was up it was only a tiny fraction of the normal speed, and it was dropping more and more frequently. At the time I called Charter tech support Saturday, it was down altogether.

The Charter representative scheduled a service visit for Tuesday but said that I might want to try dropping by my nearest Charter office on Monday and swapping out my modem. If that worked, I could then cancel the service appointment and not have to miss any work.

On Sunday, things seemed to be running better for a while. I had wishful thinking and hoped that maybe there was a neighborhood outage and that someone else’s service call, or some tweaking at a network operations center somewhere, had fixed my problem. When Charter called and texted me (simultaneously!) to confirm the Tuesday appointment, I decided to go ahead and cancel it and see what happened.

What happened was that things got slow again.

So, today, I went straight from work to Tullahoma — 20 miles down the road, and that’s not counting the rush-hour drive through downtown Tullahoma to get to the other side. I finally found the Charter office (I had confused Industrial Boulevard with Mitchell Avenue), and went in. The woman at the counter happily took my information. I handed her my modem and power cord. She took them into the next room. Then, she came back, and from a cabinet behind her she grabbed a modem, a power cord, and an Ethernet cable.

The modem was shrink-wrapped rather than in a box, which was — all things considered — a good thing. I noticed that there was an Ethernet port but nowhere to plug in a phone. I pointed this out. She then realized that all they had in their cabinet was Internet-only modems, not Internet-and-phone modems. She said she would have to schedule a truck to drop a modem by my address. This would not be a service appointment; I wouldn’t have to be home, they would just drop it off. But even so, it had to be scheduled, and the soonest it could be dropped off would be Wednesday.

Since my old modem might not even be the problem, and since my setup as-is was at least partially functional, she gave me back my old modem. I asked about the power cord, and she told me that the new Cisco power cord she’d already pulled out of the cabinet would fit the old Cisco modem. In fact, I’d seen a case online where a bad power supply was actually the source of someone’s Internet problems. The woman at the counter said that, who knows, maybe the new power supply or the new Ethernet cable would end up solving my problem.

So I drove home from Tullahoma — round trip about 90 minutes, with no other stops. I got ready to put everything back together. My old modem power cord had a small plug, with a box-like power supply further down the cable. The new power cord had an oversized plug with the power supply built into the plug — which meant it would take up more than one space on my surge protector. I did some juggling; I ended up having to plug something, I think my printer, directly into the wall instead of the surge protector.

Then, with everything else hooked up, I went to plug the power cord into the back of my old modem.

Remember when the lady at the counter told me that the new power cord would fit my old modem, since they were both Cisco?

Guess again. The new cord has a larger-diameter round connector than the old cord.

So now, I can’t even use the old modem until the new one is dropped off on Wednesday. I am writing this blog post using my laptop tethered to my AT&T cell phone. It works, but I can’t go crazy or I’ll go over the data limits for my cell phone plan this month.

Here’s hoping the new Internet-and-phone modem can use the new power cord, or that the Charter truck drops off a power cord to go with it.

is my neck red enough?

Well, I have the part of Owen Musser in “The Foreigner,” which will be presented May 6-7 and 13-15 at The Fly Arts Center in Shelbyville. We had auditions tonight and will start rehearsals tomorrow.

I was not too familiar with the play, and put down on my registration sheet that I’d take any role offered. I’ve been fortunate enough to have big parts in my last few plays; that’s fun, but it can also be fun to have a smaller part and not feel like the whole production is on your shoulders. We did not get to bring playbooks home with us tonight, so I can’t say exactly how large Owen’s part is – it’s certainly smaller than Walter Hollander, and that’s perfectly OK with me.

It will be a challenge, though. Like one of my other recent roles, Orville in “Daddy’s Dyin’ … Who’s Got The Will?”, Owen is not very likable. Without giving too much away (and most of what I know, I’ve been told, since I only read a few of Owen’s lines tonight), Owen is an antagonist, and kind of a redneck. Orville was a jerk, but his actions had consequences and he got a little bit of redemption (just a little) at the end of the play. I do not believe Owen is as fortunate – if anything, Owen turns out to be even worse than you think he is when you first meet him. There’s some fun and catharsis in being the bad guy, but I can’t say that it’s my normal preference.

In “Daddy’s Dyin’,” I was playing a man who was verbally abusive to, and who at one point threatens physical abuse against, his wife. I tried to play the part honestly, but it was a challenge – and, boy, was it awkward on the night when my “wife”s family was in the audience and in the reception line after the play.

I hope I’m up to being a bad guy again.

One difference between Orville and Owen has to do with profanity. Although we cleaned up some of the worst profanity in “Daddy’s Dyin,’” most of Orville’s curse words were delivered as written – which was reflective of his character. There are only a few mild curse words in “The Foreigner,” and we won’t be using even those, because our director – who normally works with high school students – has a strict no-profanity policy.

Our director is Tony Davis, which will be interesting for him and for us. Tony normally directs students at Community High School, which has the most ambitious and high-profile drama program of any of the county’s three public high schools. The way he conducted auditions tonight was quite different from most of the community theater auditions I’ve been through, and I suspect it’s like what he does with his students. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to learn from him, and it may be a different atmosphere than I’m used to.

The play as a whole is said to be very funny, and the sections I heard during audtions tonight seem to bear that out. I’m sure it would be well worth your time to come and see us in May.

relay update

relay-logoWell, it’s been an American Cancer Society Relay For Life kind of week.

Monday night, I helped set up for our annual Celebrity Waiter Luncheon, which I attended on Tuesday. This morning, I went to Shelbyville Rotary Club to cover a presentation (which I was responsible for setting up) by our American Cancer Society community manager, Samantha Chamblee.

On Sunday, one of my fellow members at First United Methodist will be making a pitch for the congregation to restart a Relay team after being idle for a few years.

I first got involved in Relay in 2011, the year after losing my mother, Carrie Carney, to pancreatic cancer. In 2012, I joined the local Relay organizing committee (now called the event leadership team; ACS seems to love changing its jargon every few years). Last year, I won the Martha Deason Award as Bedford County’s Relay volunteer of the year:

DSC_0364

No that’s not a trick of the lighting. My hair is purple, thanks to one of our Relay teams that night, which was offering temporary hair color.

Relay, and ACS, have become passions for me.

After an incredibly successful local event in 2014, our numbers have been down a little bit, and we were agonizing over that at the last committee meeting a few weeks ago. Part of it is just the normal cyclical nature of things. But some people have complained about the fact that the money they give to ACS goes out of town.

Yes, it does. But the impact of that money is felt in Bedford County every single day.

ACS does provide patient services, such as a 24-hour information and referral line, transportation to cancer treatments, and a network of Hope Lodge facilities that provide lodging for people undergoing cancer treatments more than 50 miles away from home.

But obviously, the biggest part of what ACS does is research. Specifically, $3.9 billion in cancer research since 1946, including work by 47 Nobel Prize winners. There’s not been some magic silver-bullet cure for cancer, and that distracts people from what actually has been accomplished. Many individual cancers that used to be untreatable are now treatable. Detection of cancer is better. Prevention of cancer is better. ACS’s sister organization, the Cancer Action Network, has advocated for laws relating to issues like smoking and insurance coverage. There’s no way to even estimate how many people are walking the planet right now blissfully unaware that the American Cancer Society is partly responsible for saving their lives.

This is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Three and a half years ago, after turning 50, I had a colonoscopy, as recommended by ACS guidelines and my doctor. My insurance paid for the procedure, without even looking at my deductible. The good news is that the doctor didn’t discover any cancer. The even better news is that the doctor removed a benign polyp from my colon – and when it comes to colon cancer, benign polyps sometimes turn into cancerous polyps. So that colonoscopy could, just possibly, have saved my life. I’ll never know. And the American Cancer Society played a big part in promoting colonoscopies and making them more readily available to more people.

It’s hard to get people to wrap their minds around such “what if” scenarios. Some people just see dollars going out of town, and don’t realize that the impact of those dollars is all around them – and maybe looking back at them in the mirror.

Relay For Life – the actual event, as well as the year-round activity which feeds into it – is a thing of joy. It’s a time to, as the slogan goes, “Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back.” It’s something that means a lot to me. Relay events used to always run overnight, to symbolize the darkness and struggle with which cancer patients must contend. But a rule change a few years ago has allowed many communities to cut back the length of their Relay events by eliminating the overnight schedule. But I love the overnight schedule, which we’ve held onto in Bedford County for another year. I love being at the event at 3 in the morning, feeling like I’m part of something special, something larger than myself.

Please consider doing one of the following:

  • Join or start a Relay team. If you’re reading this from outside Bedford County, you can find your community’s Relay event here. If you’re here in Bedford County, here’s our local event.
  • At the very least, please attend your local Relay event. It’s not, repeat NOT, just for the registered team members. Teams will have concession stands set up and will be selling lots of tasty food, merchandise, carnival games, and so on. There will be special ceremonies and activities, such as a survivor lap to honor cancer survivors and a luminaria ceremony to remember those we’ve lost and honor those who are still fighting. If you’ve never attended a luminaria ceremony, you will have to trust me when I tell you it will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.
  • Or, you can donate online to support someone who is participating in Relay.

Do it for my mom, if you knew her. Or do it for any of the people you know who are fighting cancer, or for someone you remember who was lost to cancer.

Mightier (and more annoying) than the sword

My second group of kids this morning at Regan Aymett‘s class at Learning Way Elementary was a little bit of a problem today during my Raise Your Hand Tennessee volunteer hour. They were all boys. We were doing the first half of an activity, with no writing required, but they all had pens, and one of them had a four-color pen — the type that has four different little sliding levers, each of which causes a different color of ballpoint pen to pop out.
The boys were fighting over the pen. I took up all the pens and set them in a basket on the table, but one of the boys kept trying to grab the pen from the basket when I wasn’t looking. I finally took all the pens and carried them over to Ms. Aymett’s desk for safekeeping. I was trying to walk a line between sounding firm and yet not sounding annoyed, like they were getting to me.
In truth, they were getting to me.
Meanwhile, I am wearing a shirt today that is relatively snug-fitting, and when I am sitting in a relatively small chair, leaning forward to indicate my interest in what the kids are saying, my belly pushes out and it gaps up a bit. At one point, the boys were going on about how they could see my belly. I tried to straighten up and readjust the shirt, and then one of them talked about how bushy and funny-looking my eyebrows were. I tried to say something about it being rude to talk about someone’s appearance, but the boys weren’t having it.
Later, I had to go back and get the pens so that we could start on the second half of the activity. At the end of the session, as Regan cheerfully intoned “Class, class!”, one of the boys was removing the cap from a felt-tip marker. It stuck or something, so that when he pulled it off his arm went back too far and he poked the boy next to him in the eye.
I hope that I do an OK job as a volunteer for an hour a week, but it sure makes me appreciative of the people like Regan who deal with this all day, every day.

hello larry

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about my regular weekly volunteer hour at Learning Way Elementary. Unfortunately, a combination of Monday holidays, weather and a doctor’s appointment made my participation spotty during January and the first half of February, but I’m back on track now.

As I posted to Facebook last week, there’s a new automated security check system at Bedford County schools. When you arrive at school as a visitor, you give them your driver’s license, and they scan it and run an immediate background check. The system then prints out a visitor name badge sticker personalized with your name and driver’s license photo. Once the license has been scanned the first time, you’re in the system and all they have to do is look you up on your next visit.

Of course, I had a background check back when I first signed up for Raise Your Hand Tennessee, the volunteer program through which I work at Learning Way. But this new system scans every visitor.

Unfortunately, there seem to be a few quirks. Last week, my name badge got printed out as “L Carney,” and when the receptionist looked me up this week, she told me that there was no way to change it. So I’ll be “L Carney” from this point forward.

The first group of kids I worked with this morning helpfully suggested the name “Larry” to go with my new first initial.

Someone on Facebook posed a good question last week – if the system has gotten my name wrong, does that also mean the background check isn’t reliable?

I was disappointed to find out that today was “Hat Day” at Learning Way. Had I known, I’d have worn the floppy hat, made of baobab tree fibers, that I brought back from one of my Kenya trips.

Another new development since I blogged last is that Regan Aymett, the teacher in whose classroom I work, managed to get donations to buy rubber fitness balls for all of her students to sit on. I sit in a regular chair, but the kids are all on rubber balls – not unlike the one that Leo Laporte sits on for some of his podcasts on the TWiT network.

Leo, of course, has not always had good success sitting on his ball, as you can see in these clips:

The purpose of the balls is to help keep the kids active even as they’re seated and working on classwork. The kids seem to have adapted well to them.